National Weather Service: Be weather wise

Understanding severe weather watches and warnings


As the National Weather Service becomes aware of the potential of hazardous summer weather, the agency passes it on to residents. A stream of weather information is sent from its offices days before a warning may be issued.

The daily hazardous weather outlook the National Weather Service offices in Boulder, Pueblo, Goodland and Grand Junction will give you the potential for hazardous weather as early as a week before a severe weather event.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., forecasts the chance for severe weather across the country for today, tomorrow and the next day and will tell you if you are in a "slight-risk," "moderate- risk" or "high-risk" area of severe weather.

If severe weather becomes likely within the next six hours, a watch will be issued to alert people of the higher likelihood of severe weather in and near the watch area.

If you are in or close to the area covered by a watch, plan out in your mind where you would go for shelter if severe weather were to strike. If high winds are a primary threat, tying down or bringing loose objects indoors is a good idea.

Then, forecasters at the local National Weather Service office, monitoring satellite and radar information and talking to severe-weather spotters, will issue warnings and quickly disseminate them to alert you to imminent severe weather. The warnings are sent many different ways in order to reach the widest possible audience.

A warning is an urgent message to tell you that severe weather or flooding is imminent or is occurring. Warnings usually are for small areas, part of a county, or a county or two at a time.

A severe thunderstorm warning is issued for wind gusts of 58 miles per hour or greater, or hail of at least three quarters of an inch in diameter.

A tornado warning is issued when tornados are imminent or occurring.

A flash flood warning is issued for rapidly developing life-threatening flooding.

In times of severe weather, you can get watches, warnings and advisories on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards. It is recommended that you buy a weather radio receiver with a built-in tone alarm, which is activated by the National Weather Service when watches and warnings are issued.

You also also see warnings on the Internet or receive them from your local radio or television stations.

Be weather wise. Do not be caught off guard. Know how to get watch and warning information, and what to do when severe weather threatens.

Specific safety information will be available each day of this Colorado Severe Weather Awareness Week.


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